201 people in British Columbia died from a suspected illicit drug overdose in October after new data was released today (Thursday) by the Coroners Service.
That equates to about 6.5 deaths per day on average.
It also marked another grim milestone since a public health emergency was declared in 2016 as it was the largest number of fatalities ever recorded in a single month.
Northern Health tallied 13 suspected drug overdose deaths in October, with six of those in Prince George.
So far this year, 113 people in our health authority have passed away due to illicit drugs with 41 of those in the northern capital.
In addition, Northern Health has recorded 245 drug toxicity deaths since January of 2020 – equating to just over 11 per month.
The latest reported fatalities bring the death toll for the first ten months of the year to 1,782 – the highest ever recorded in a calendar year.
“Today is a heart-rending milestone for our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner.
“The deaths of more than 200 of our community members in one month due to toxic drugs is a devastating loss. In the sixth year of this public health emergency, we are experiencing a record loss of life and I know this news will resonate with tremendous sadness amongst the thousands of families who have lost a loved one to this crisis. My thoughts continue to be with every family and community that is grieving the loss of a loved one.”
Deaths involving fentanyl accounted for 84% of the total this year.
However, the highly powerful opioid carfentanil has been detected in 152 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2021, more than double the 65 recorded over the same period last year.
71% of deaths this year alone are from those between the ages of 30-59.
The Coroners Service noted Northern Health has the third-highest drug toxicity rate among all five health authorities in BC at 44.8 per 100,000.
“This is a health crisis,” Lapointe said.
“I cannot stress enough how urgent this emergency has become. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe supply for the thousands of B.C. residents dependent on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punishment and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a critical step to reduce suffering and save lives.”
Vancouver Coastal (47.6) and Interior Health (45.0) ranked higher.
In terms of Health Service Delivery Area, the Northern Interior, which includes Prince George-Quesnel-Burns Lake and the Robson Valley has the sixth-highest drug toxicity death rate of 43.9.
Vancouver is far and away the leader in that category with a rate of 69.6 – a difference of nearly 26 points.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.